Review of ICICTE technology innovations conference

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I attended my second ICICTE (International Conference on Information Communication Technologies in Education) this year. The conference aims to explore the challenges and changes arising from technological innovations. The themes of this year’s conference ranged from procedures and techniques to tools for creating 21st century learning environments.

Neal Sumner and I presented the findings from a case-study on the role of Learning Technologists at the University. The presentation examined how the role of these professional staff developed by providing points of comparison to a report on the career development of learning technology staff in UK universities in 2001. This case study identified that Learning Technologists undertake diverse roles and acquire the skills to work in different communities (professional, academic and research). It also found that, while the core role and activities of Learning Technologists were similar to findings in 2001, the changing context in which Learning Technologists now operate has added complexity to the role and impacted on the skills and experience required.

Highlights of the conference were a highly interactive and informative workshop on “Increasing Instructional Interactivity with Turning Technologies Response Technology” from Dr Chris Wiley, Senior Lecturer in Music and Director of the BMus Programme at City University London and a Turning Technologies Distinguished Educator.

Chris showcased the potential of clickers by demonstrating the moment to moment feature as we rated the individuality of the Spice Girls while watching one of their videos. He set up a leaderboard for a jukebox musical quiz. There was a demonstration of how clickers could be used to develop a peer instruction model as we answered a question from the TV show Dara O’Briain: School of Hard Sums and then engaged in a group discussion around the rationale for our answers. We then answered the question again to see how the discussion had changed our understanding of the issue.

You can read more about Chris’ use of clickers on his blog and, if you are interested in using clickers in your lectures, you can visit the LDC’s website to find out how to get started.

This year’s keynote from Professor Alan Tait explored how distance education evolved with technological innovations and brought participants on a journey from stone tablets to digital tablets; and from the earliest correspondence courses to MOOCs. He examined technological innovations through Gidden’s notion of disembedding, where social relations are being taken out of local contexts and are distanced from location and physical presence. It was a useful theory to explore aspects of digital literacy and how we prepare students for learning online.

Professor Heather Smigiel from Flinders University, Australia, presented on managing the change required when introducing and embedding ICT in a University. While there was lots of positive feedback from staff and students on the introduction of blended learning models, there were some concerns. Heather outlined how her department, The Centre for University Teaching, supports staff with blended learning. There are many elements here that the Learning Development Centre could usefully adopt, including regular peer review of online teaching, offering mentoring support for online teaching and establishing cross-school working groups to disseminate best practice.

Building on this idea of embedding effective practice in online learning, Evangeline (Litsa) Varonis from The University of Akron, USA, presented on the Quality Matters rubric.This subscription service from MarylandOnline, Inc. has been developed to evaluate the design of online and blended modules. The rubric considers the alignment of the outcomes, resources, assignments, activities and technology within a module. I like the idea of a framework that encourages quality enhancement and that those reviewing a course using the rubric are also gaining insights into their own learning designs from participating in the process.

If you are interesting in aligning your blended module/programme, you might be interested in the workshop being run over the summer by the Education Support Team in the School of Social Sciences and Arts that explores how to use Moodle to align your outcomes and assessments.

Danni Mulrennan, a journalism lecturer from AUT University, New Zealand, showcased how their journalism department was encouraging students to model the use of social media tools used in professional journalistic environments. Students use blogs to develop multimedia portfolios, Twitter to deliver the news angle succinctly and video conferencing tools to develop an international news show with students from around the world. Danni demoed a recording made on vyclone that allows users to edit and synch multiple views of an event. This could have have useful applications in supporting student induction activities.

During a Meet the Experts session with Professors Alan Tait and Michael Moore, there was lots of discussion on publishing educational technology research. A tip for those interested in this research area is that both policy and the historical perspective on educational technology are under-researched.

Overall, it was a really useful conference and I took away lots of ideas, which I hope to put into practice.

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